Indian Air Force Fighter / Attack Aircraft
A fighter squadron nominally consists of 20 fighter aircraft, though in practice at times as few as 16 aircraft may make up a squadron. As of 2000, the Indian Air Force was equipped with twenty-two squadrons of ground attack fighters. Five of these squadrons have over eighty British Jaguar aircraft. Another five squadrons had over 130 Soviet-origin MiG-27 aircraft. The air force also fields twenty fighter squadrons, two of which are equipped with a about 40 French-built Mirage 2000 H/TH aircraft. The Indian Air Force has also recently acquired a small but growing number of Russian Su-30 multi-role combat aircraft. There were also twelve squadrons of transport aircraft in the inventory. Because of the large number of Soviet-origin aircraft, the air force is dependent on Russia for spare parts and equipment and weapons upgrades.
As of early 2002 the IAF reportedly planned to have around 35 combat squadrons by 2010, versus the existing 40, each equipped with the modern aircraft after around 300-350 MiG-21 variants are phased out. This revised plan apparently reflected the availability of imported aircraft, such as the Mirage 2000.
As of 2005, the Indian Air Force claimed to have 32-33 squadrons of fighter aircraft and sought to expand that to 40 squadrons. However, there were about 41 fighter squadrons active in the IAF, spread out among the five geographical commands. This discrepancy might arise from some squadrons not being officially disbanded despite their aircraft undergoing maintenance or being phased out. The IAF might be awaiting to resupply some of these squadrons from the 140 SU-30's being manufactured by HAL and the additional 126 multi-role fighter aircraft the IAF is expected to order in the near future.
From a peak of 39.5 squadrons in the mid-1980s, by early 2006 the IAF was down to 32 squadrons or less, seven below its sanctioned strength of 39.5 fighter squadrons and the lowest in over three decades. At that time, sixteen squadrons of the MiG-21 formed over 40 per cent of the fighter fleet, accounting for over half of all fighter aircraft sorties flown each year. The oldest MiG-21s - nearly 100 Type 77 aircraft - acquired in the early 1970s had reached the end of their 3,000-hour service life and were retired in 2007, causing the single largest void in the air force.
At least 500 other aircraft were to be phased out by 2015, including over 100 MiG-27 strike fighters, causing a gap in the IAF's ground attack capabilities. The last two MiG-23 squadrons, purchased in the 1970s, were retired in 2006, a year before their planned retirement as part of an accelerated phase-out of old aircraft with unreliable engines. A squadron of MiG-25 strategic recce aircraft was de-inducted on 01 May 2006. Replying to a query whether with the phasing-out of the Mig-25 the IAF reconnaissance needs were affected, Air Chief Marshal Fali H Major said 13 February 2009 that the role of ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) was a part and parcel of any Air Force and that the IAF has it. He also stated that there are better and efficient ways of getting ISR.
As of 2007 the Indian Air Force (IAF) had around 30-32 squadrons worth of serviceable combat aircraft. This was well below the target of 39 1/2. About 21 squadrons flew MiG-21s of one vintage or another, and overall squadron strength was projected to plunge to 27 during the 2012-2017 period.
At the beginning of the 11th Plan period [2007-12], the force had only 32 squadrons. In February 2009 Defence Minister A K Antony said that by the end of the 13th Plan period, Indian Air Force's combat fleet would be of 42 squadrons, more than the strength sanctioned by the Government. "During the period 2007-2022, the strength at the end of 11th, 12th and 13th Plan periods is expected to increase to 35.5, 35 and 42 squadrons respectively," Antony said in a written reply to a query in Rajya Sabha. Government had sanctioned the IAF to have a total of 39.5 squadrons of fighter aircraft. He said that the air force will reach the peak of strength with the induction of Su-30 MKIs, Jaguars, Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA), Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major said in July 2007 that the air force wanted to reduce the inventory in its combat jet arsenal to three aircraft systems only, and over the next few years, it would use the home-made Tejas as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the new MRCAs as the Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA) and the 35-ton SU-30MKIs as the Heavy Combat Aircraft (HCA).
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F H Major said in February 2009 that "Our plan is to use Su-30 MKIs, MRCAs, Tejas, upgraded Mirage-2000 and Mig-29 as well as Jaguar aircraft." Air Chief Marshal Fali H Major said 13 February 2009 that the squadron strength envisaged by 2017 was 34 squadrons and the remaining strength was to be achieved by 2020.
Contracts were been signed 19 December 2011 with M/s Thales, France, along with M/s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for upgrade of the Mirage 2000 aircraft of the Indian Air Force, with M/s HAL for upgrade of the Jaguar aircraft and with M/s RAC-MiG Russia for upgrade of the MiG-29 aircraft. The cost of the contract for upgrade of the Mirage 2000 with the M/s Thales, France is Euro 1470 million while the cost of the contract with HAL is 2020 crores. The upgrade of the aircraft is expected to be completed by mid 2021. The cost of upgrade of the MiG-29 aircraft is USD 964 million and it is expected to be completed by 2016. The cost for upgrade of the Jaguar aircraft is Rs.3113.02 crores and the aircraft are expected to be upgraded by December 2017.
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